Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce each jailed for eight months

Former Lib Dem energy secretary and ex-wife sentenced for perverting course of justice

Chris Huhne and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, have each been jailed for eight months for perverting the course of justice over an arrangement 10 years ago in which Pryce took speeding points for the former Liberal Democrat MP.

Huhne, 58, resigned his Commons seat last month after pleading guilty to the offence immediately before the start of a scheduled joint trial with Pryce. His ex-wife, a 60-year-old economist, was found guilty last week at the end of a second trial in which jurors rejected her defence that Huhne had coerced her into taking the points.

Sentencing them at Southwark crown court on Monday afternoon, the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said: "To the extent that anything good has come out of this whole process, it is that now, finally, you have both been brought to justice for your joint offence. Any element of tragedy is entirely your own fault."

In 2003, the judge said, the pair had a long marriage, five children and "stellar" careers. But they also had a problem: Huhne's looming six-month driving ban for speeding.

"You have fallen from a great height," he told Huhne, adding that he had reached that height only by lying about the points.

Although he said Huhne was "somewhat - but not greatly, in my view - more culpable" than his ex-wife, the judge said Pryce had shown an "implacable" desire for revenge following the end of her marriage, adding that her not guilty plea had revealed a "controlling, manipulative and devious side to your character".

She had, he went on, "sought to manipulate and control the press" so as to achieve her "dual objective" of bringing down Huhne and not implicating herself.

Huhne, wearing a dark suit and tie, remained motionless as he became the first former cabinet minister since Jonathan Aitken to be sent to prison.

Pryce, who wore a black jacket over a silver-grey top, also showed no emotion as she was sent to prison in front of a packed courtroom, which included Huhne's father and his partner, Carina Trimingham.

Neither gave any visible reaction to the sentences, or looked at each other. As the judge ordered they be taken to begin their setences Huhne went first. His former wife waited a few seconds for him to disappear through the door, and with a barely perceptible nod to her legal team and the judge, followed him out.

Huhne and Pryce will probably serve only two months of their eight month sentences in prison. The judge said they would be released on licence halfway through their sentence but would also be eligible for earlier release under supervision. This refers to the home detention curfew scheme under which prisoners are released after serving a quarter of their sentence – in this case two months. Those released under the scheme have to abide by a minimum nine-hour curfew which is enforced by an electronic tag usually fastened on the ankle.

The jail terms bring to a close a murky saga that has not only ruined Huhne's meteoric political career – elected to parliament in 2005, he quickly progressed to become energy secretary in the coalition – and badly damaged Pryce's impressive professional reputation as a leading economist, but has also torn apart their family.

The saga began on 12 March 2003 when Huhne, then an MEP, was clocked speeding on his way home to south London from Stansted airport. To save him from a driving ban owing to an accumulation of points on his licence, Pryce said she had been driving, her trial heard.

The matter lay quiet for seven years. But in June 2010 Huhne told his family he was leaving Pryce as a newspaper had learned of his long-term affair with his PR adviser, Carina Trimingham, 46.

Pryce was furious and began talking to newspaper journalists, notably the Sunday Times's political editor, Isabel Oakeshott, about the arrangement over the driving points. Revenge, however, was not forthcoming: instead of seeing her husband jailed, Pryce stood next to him in the dock to hear her own sentence.

The events also exacted a terrible toll on the family. During a pre-trial hearing during which Huhne attempted unsuccessfully to have the charge against him dismissed, the court was told about text message exchanges between Huhne and his youngest son, Peter, in which the then 18-year-old abused his father and told him they had no relationship.

There was wider political fallout from the case after emails between Pryce and Oakeshott, revealed to the jury, suggested several people within the Liberal Democrats, including Vince Cable and Nick Clegg's wife, Miriam González Durántez, had known about the points swap before it was reported in the press in May 2011. They have denied this.


Peter Walker

The GuardianTramp

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